The refrigerator once again moaned at the sight of me coming through the door laden with four full bags of new eats. Strange to envision all of that weight going through my body. I hope at least it doesn’t all stay, I hope instead I am able to use it for fuel. Reading ingredients, selecting the smart one over the sexy one when it comes to breads. The packaging is the burden I regret the most. What sane adult would buy so much five color printing, in cardboard and foil only to throw it in the giant blue bin in a matter of days. Half the weight in my bags is likely the multiple layers of stale-proofing. Single-layer packaging, or better yet no layer packaging, maybe when we figure out how to get the cornmeal to form and hold itself into the necessary text to spell out, Cornbread Mix $1.99, now that is some genetic engineering I could get behind.

But I miss Merlin Hawkins and his talent for good shopping trips. I miss the consistency of breakfast with him. Sometimes its easy to forget the importance of breakfast, and the permission it should give you to eat what ever you want, because likely you will burn it off before noon. I miss his language and his hands and his dog. I miss him eating next to me, I miss the way he would distract his wife while I feed the dog under the table. I miss frying him two eggs instead of one because I knew Dee wouldn’t complain if I gave it to him. I miss his fresh shaved cheeks and his unshaved cheeks on the days I came too early and he anxiously made it to the table. I miss feeling bad that I couldn’t get there because I was out of town. I miss knowing he’s there watching Gunsmoke or Matlock or any other damn Andy Griffith show. I like that "spell check" leaves Andy Griffith alone, because that’s the kind of importance you swing when you have done that much.

I bought a camera the other day, it’s a little toy thing, called a Diana, used to make them in the sixties. Shoots square film, which means all the shots come out square and steeped in nostalgia. Something I rail against on a regular basis, but this time I think its just fine. I found a picture of Papa once in a box, it was square and from the sixties. Black and white, he’s young and trim in a perfect cut pencil suit, skinny tie and all, he’s got those great horned rimmed glasses and broad shoulders. He was at his peak, this was while he still had a piece of Neal Motors in Woodland, and I am sure there was something shiny and new in the parking lot. He was at a wedding, I can’t really prove that, but I would still lay money on it. He’s sitting in that way he could, one leg over the other like a real sophisticate and yet there is this real calm energy about him. Like not a worry in the world and probably there wasn’t. He just knows his place in the scheme of things. When I was making him breakfast for all those years, he would instill that same calm in me, as cool cats go, he was the coolest. I find it hard to reach that same level of calm these days. Here I am at the height of my powers, just here to make art and kick a little academic ass, in that order. And yet I find myself opening cupboards and checking behind bookcases looking for that sense of calm the old man could effortlessly hand out just by saying my name as I walked in and telling me how nice my truck looked in his driveway.

Tonight I slung sheetrock and mud. I coated an old beat up wall in the studios, wrapped it in one of those trades taught to me by the men in my family, years of watching manifested in my dusty hands. Tool-belt slung low, chalk-box dusting a precise line down the gray paper of the sheet, tiny sharpened pencil firmly locked behind the ear. My hands moving with the razor smoothly down my line, the snap and crack from the scored gouge and then like a dancer pull that knife in one long stroke up the back to free the flap from the larger panel resting on my tailgate. The panel up to the wall held firmly by Shane, the Makita from the belt screw already loaded on the magnetic tip finds the paper, plunges in, and digs tell it catches wood and pulls snug, dimpling the paper in that oh so satisfying way. And without even thinking to do it my left hand has already loaded the next screw from my pouch. Now where did I learn all that? I learned it one birthday cake at a time.

No one told me to rock the wall, but in my continuing search for calm, it seemed like a good way to stretch my back. Knock those kinks off the building side of my mind.

Raise your hammers to the old man tomorrow, without him we wouldn't know what hard work looked like.


  1. I am re-thinking a story in Grandma Stories called "How do I know how to do that?". I attributed it to how I was raised. Incredible that you could write this post and make my story look puny. Hats off! Your Mom

  2. Wow what a story, after reading it, I just sat there thinking about all the things i have learned over the years and what seems like second nature came from the older generations in my lifetime. Thanks for writing. It let us remember those silent heros. Brian

  3. K.Melroy: Mert had a look , Mert had a answer, Mert had it all. Papa had us all.
    November 11 at 6:39pm


Post a Comment

Popular Posts